I'm 37 and I went to architecture school and I worked as an architect's
draftsmen for about the past 8 years. I worked in a movie theater in Chapel
Hill as well. At the moment Iím doing freelance computer work in Raleigh.
We're converting resumes onto database for a big temp agency. I also have
small inheritance from a grandfather that helps me out, to get by.
XDU's is about my main hobby, that and reading and occasional train travel.
The very first place I lived in Durham in 84 or 85, was a rooming house over in North Durham. One of my housemates was friends with MJ Sharp, who at that time was doing the Women in Music show...Through this housemate, I met MJ and sometimes would visit her on the air. I always had an interest in college radio since I was in college up in Ohio and always wanted to do a show but never had time with architecture school being too grueling. After watching her do her show, I talked to the program director at the time and asked him about doing a little half hour comedy show. One Sunday night I was visiting MJ and he said "How about doing your show next week?" After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said sure. I went in for a crash training course that Wednesday night and was on the air the next Sunday night, which was fall semester 86. And Iíve been there every since. It was Laugh Tracks. It's always been Laugh Tracks. It was the only thing I figured I knew enough material to be able to do a show. I wasnít well versed in classical or country or jazz, or anything else...all I knew I heard on the radio. But Iíve always liked comedy. I was a devotee of both written comedy and TV comedy, like James Thurmer and S.J. Perlman...I have a fairly good size collection of comedy albums. The station had a pretty good collection and I began building on to it. I began cruising used record stores after I got the show on a regular basis to look for albums. But I figured comedy was the one thing that I knew enough about to do a whole show on.
About 5 years ago, there was a guy that was on before me on Sunday evenings. He had a syndicated hour show called Music from the Hearts of Space, that he was instrumental in getting XDU to carry. When he retired, Hearts of Space was canceled and they gave me the hour...I began doing New Frontier, which is my experimental, progressive, weird, fun stuff show. The story behind that is, Fresh Air was a show that was on from midnight to six am on the college radio station at Kent State, WKSU, where I was in school. It played all kinds of exotic, strange, experimental stuff that you wouldnít hear on regular radio. My last year there it was taken off the air when a new general manager came and rearranged the station. I was quite distressed by that and had always wanted to be a Fresh Air DJ but, like I said, I never had the time with architecture school. I sort of wanted to revive a kind of fresh air like show and got the chance when I got the hour when Hearts of Space was on...I tried to kind of fill in its shoes, but go in a broader direction. I listen to XDU a lot and whenever I hear something that seems to fit into my show, I write it down and keep hold of it.
I thought XDU was a fun place, a cool place. It wasn't so organized and clean as to be intimidating. I mean it looked like a place where people just hung out and pursued their hobbie - being on the radio. It hasn't changed much over the years. In terms of organization, the station has gotten a bit more organized...I don't think I would have gotten a show just on the whim of the program director, like I did..If Iíd come in now, I would have of course had to fill out specialty show applications.
I think we had to become a little more coherent on who we were and what our purpose was when we were in danger of losing our funding. There was a guy named Jeffrey Marks, who was the president of the student council or something (this was when our funding came out of student fees, before we joined as part of the union) and he wanted to cut our funding, saying that we were esoteric and out there and no one listened to us, etcetera...The people who were running the station at that time put a little more effort and thought into explaining to themselves and to the rest of us what XDU is and what it's for. Iím not very coherent at these things, but generally it's to play stuff that you won't hear on commercial radio for another five years yet...Having the freedom of being non-commercial and not having to worry about paying bills and selling ads and all, we can just explore.
I don't think we are listened to by the students as much as we'd like to be, but our listening range, when our tower was up, covered Durham, Chapel Hill, almost as far south as North Chatham County, a lot of Orange County. So Duke University is just a very small part of our listening audience. We seem to me kind of like a little well-kept secret backwater of Duke that not that many people know about but is there for anybody who wants to come be a part of us and DJ. Although, Iíve wondered sometimes what would happen if, some student might, make the case that there's not enough student involvement in the station. So many of our specialty show DJs, like myself, are community members who never even went to Duke...but that's never happened. A student might argue ďwe should just throw them out and make it a strictly Duke station." That's never happened but it could happen. It would make it kind of boring. Like I said, all of our specialty show DJs would have to go off the air. Nobody would replace them. And the broad spectrum of music that we play might narrow down a bit. DJs we might get might be more interested in playing stuff that they like, stuff they hear on the radio all the time, on the commercial radio stations, and not trying out the more interesting stuff. People I meet all over the triangle say to me "Oh, XDU, that's a really cool station. It plays all this interesting stuff." At XDU we're allowed to mix things, we're allowed to pull things out of the playlist as we see fit. Still it's playing stuff that is kind of on the edge.
I started helping Chris Calloway and Holly tracking. And the PSA slot was empty at the time and I wanted to get more involved in the station - I just wanted to, I donít know why - and Chris suggested to try the PSA thing, which he said was a grueling and thankless job. So I took it over and pretty much made it my own. Iíve put it on a schedule. I come in once a week, go through the mail for the PSAís. I created Artline totally out of my own idea. Since we got so many PSA's for fine arts stuff, I didn't want to have too many PSA's in the box, so I started Artline which runs once a day, listing all the fine arts stuff going on in the area.
College radio? More freedom , more experimentation, less regulation, less having to worry about money and revenue. And it's a hobby. And people do it because they enjoy it, because they're into it. Because they can dress comfortably and smuggle beer in. Artistically, socially, it's someplace where all kinds of musical types, people types, can be and find out more about each other. It's something kind of outside the establishment, to use an old 60's word. It's just kind of in XDU's nature that that's the way we are...We are not a Dilbert kind of organization. And I wouldn't want us to be because that wouldn't be fun, that wouldn't be a hobby.
There's always going to be that, kind of that tension between the fact that we're a Duke station and Duke owns our broadcast license, and we operate on Duke property and Duke funds, but we serve the entire western half of the triangle community. Although you could turn that around and make a case for it being a way that Duke university takes part in the life of the community... Duke seems a little less connected to the community. So many of the people living here, work at Duke. That would be a good defense point if someone was to criticize us for being so non-Dukish. We're kind of an outreach of Duke's. We're providing a source of entertainment and knowledge and leisure to the community. There are a whole group of people who just come and go and people who are there for a long time and know each other. Weíre like a church for that matter. People who are the core of it and the center and work at it all the time and people who come and go and pass through.
We don't get as much press as Iíd like to see. The independent has been quite wonderful with all our fundraisers for the tower. We had the drive-in thing and they had a special blurb for it in their issue, talking about this horror movie, "But the thought of life at XDU might be the scariest thought of all."
I never thought of it being necessary...why not? It all depends on where you're coming from and what you're talking about necessity...All kinds of things people could make a case aren't' necessary but are fun, are people's hobbies. Maybe people need hobbies to let off steam. Life without hobbies would kind of scrunch people's minds and souls up. I never even thought of that concept that XDU is necessary. It would just be really sad if it shut down for any reason. You'd have all these people who enjoy doing radio shows with no where to go. They'd lose this hobby that's important to them.